Tuesday, 24 May 2011

What's wrong with tasks? My solution

For some reason or another tasks or to-do lists have been forgotten in many of the new mobile devices and I wonder what is the reason behind it. I wanted to rise this topic now that Google has released its official API for Google Tasks.

I have been a big fan of task lists for a long time, since Palm Pilots. I always keep track of my work and personal tasks, classifying them in categories and assigning them priorities and due dates as well as alarms. I find them really useful so I do not forget important things, but also ideas and thoughts that come to my mind during the day. Even this first Palm organizers included a Task app with support for categories.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Mac Menu bar Calendar apps

I have been playing for a while with several Mac menu bar calendar apps: QuickCal, Fantastical, CalendarBar and Calendar apps (all available in the Mac App Store). I have also been testing the Control Panel extension FlexCal. Here it is a small summary of what I have found out during my testing and my final solution:

  • QuickCal: inexpensive app. It has a configurable view where you can select the number of days as well as the number of tasks that you want to be shown in the menu. It allows you to create both tasks and events by typing kind of natural language. You need iCal running to get the events sync with your calendars. In the next version 2.5 there will add Google Calendar integration. I really like the task handling feature.

  • Fantastical: probably the most impressive app by far. Amazing user interface, natural language recognition, nice user interface, etc. It also allows you to sync the events with CalDav calendars even if iCal is not running as it has its own implementation of CalDav for when iCal app is closed. What I dislike: price and no support for tasks.

  • CalendarBar: nice app that supports iCal, Google and Facebook calendars. Nice integration with Facebook and also support for Growl notifications. It also handles tasks. The app only allows you to view events/tasks, not to create/edit/delete. Paid app, but not expensive.

  • Calendar: Nice month view with week numbering. Color badges with the number of events per calendar. Again, it is a view-only app, does not allow to create/edit/delete events. The best of all, it is free. 

  • FlexCal: although this is not a menu bar app, it is very useful. It stays in your control panel and it allows you to easily create events/tasks with an easy keyboard shortcut.

And what I am using right now: a combination of QuickCal and FlexCal. I like the way QuickCal shows in one click everything that is coming next, both events and tasks. But I do not like the way to create events/tasks as I need to customize reminders. For that I use FlexCal, that has an easy way to select dates with a small month browser. You can actually use any of the view-only apps in conjunction with FlexCal to input events/tasks.

Besides these tools you can also have a look at TinyCal and MenuCalendarClock. I have been using them in the past. I was even a registered user of MenuCalendarClock, but I stopped using it because all the main updates were paid ones and I had the feeling it was too much paying for a single app.

Let me know your experiences and what suits you better.


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Yet another family member


Finally the second new family member arrived :-)

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Easy Calendar iPhone calendar app review (updated)

After the Easter break here I am with a new review. This time the app is Easy Calendar.
If I have to summarize this app in one word it would be: simplicity.

Easy Calendar is a calendar app with only one view: week view. This is the only view you will get and to be honest, this is enough for me.

The week view is exactly the one I always expect: Monday to Sunday, with Saturday and Sunday as a half size box, and days ordered up-down and left-right.

You can see some events in gray color: these are non-editable events. Editable ones are shown in normal black font.

Whenever the day has more events that cannot be shown on the box, you will get an indicator that you can tab to get more details for that day:

If we have a look at the week view we can see in the upper part the week number. This is really useful if you use week numbers at work like I do. (we always refer to week numbers in all our projects at work).

On the upper left corner we have a button to go back to today and on the right side we have a button to go to a specific month.This is the first think that I find not so consistent. The main point of the app is to show weeks, but you cannot jump to a specific week. Instead you have to jump to a month. There should be at least an option to choose between week or month in my honest opinion.

Now, how do you add an event? Just tab on the empty area of a day or on the date bar and the event creation screen will appear.

Really easy and fast. Actually, the app is design to decrease the number of tabs that you need to create, delete and modify events. By default the event has a duration of one hour. You can change also the date of the event by pressing on the Date button. You will be presented with the same type of week view where you can choose the date.

You can also change the event to all-day duration easily with the slider. On the text field you enter the event tittle. If you need more specific details then you press the More button and you will get the familiar

Add Event window from iOS calendar app.

In order to modify an event, just tab on it and you will be presented with the same quick event editor that it is used to create a new event. You can then move or modify the event using the same logic explained before. Also an option to delete the event is given.

You can also easily move an event by tapping and holding on it and then selecting the date where the event is going to be moved.

And about the options, you will find them in the iPhone Settings app. I really like apps that keep their settings there, so all app options can be found on the same place and the interface of the app gets cleaner.

Options in Easy calendar are quite simple: enable/disable hints, a nice option that makes the app to go automatically to Today after 15 minutes, week numbering (International or USA) and the time zone.

I find the app very quick and responsive and it is what it makes it so good: simple and fast. However I would like to see more options added: configurable font size, font color according the calendar (or a small color line in front of the event). Also, an action could be added when you press on the week number bar. I hope the developers are listening and they add some of these features soon.

If you want a quick and simple week view app, I highly recommend it. You can buy the app from this iTunes link. They have a 75% spring discount till the end of the month so hurry up and grab a copy :-)